People waiting around for free STD testing.

Is Free STD Testing Right for You?

People waiting around for free STD testing.

Free STD testing may sound good in theory, but there are a few pitfalls in practice that you as a patient need to be aware of. There are options for free STD testing nearby and available to you, either from your local city or county clinic to locations that are run and funded by nonprofit organizations. Though these free STD testing opportunities can be a good resource, the experience can often be frustrating and embarrassing for some people.

Long Waits To Get Tested

Because so many people are looking to find cheap or free STD testing, you’ll likely not be the only one waiting to get tested. Free STD testing clinics have notoriously long wait times, which means you could be sitting in a waiting area wasting your day instead of using your time in a way that’s more productive.

Lack of Privacy

Let’s address one of the biggest issues with free STD testing clinics: lack of privacy. When you stop by your local free STD testing clinic, the purpose of your visit is clear and obvious. Free STD testing locations commonly only offer one service: free STD testing. That means when you stop by one of these clinics, if you’re seen or recognized, your dearly held privacy concerning your sexual health is taken away. Making the choice to get tested is a very personal one, and it’s one that many people would like to keep as private as possible for numerous reasons.

Potentially Awkward Test Visits

When you’re seen at a free clinic or other free STD testing location, you’ll often be seen by a medical professional or member of the staff who will run through a series of awkward or uncomfortable questions in an effort to collect data that is analyzed and used by state or local health departments. How many sexual partners have you had? What kinds of sex do you engage in? Do you engage in sex with members of the same sex, opposite sex, or both? Have you had a recent sexual encounter that you are concerned about? These are just a few of the potentially questions you may be asked at a free STD test location before you receive testing.

Long Waits to Receive Your Results

Free STD testing clinics don’t have the lab partnerships that other STD testing providers have. While the test itself may be free for you, there is no additional incentive to process your test results quickly so that you can ease your mind. Your test will be one in a large batch to be processed, remembering also that with as many people who seek out the free STD testing option, there will be that many more tests for them to process and send to the lab, including yours.

Not Necessarily Free

The term “free STD testing” isn’t always what it seems. Though there are some nonprofits that fund their ability to provide free STD testing through the money they raise or grants they receive, some actually require a donation from you. Some may advertise that they offer free STD testing, but it’s likely that testing doesn’t cover all of the most common STDs and might only test for specific STDs at no cost to you. Bottom line: Be sure to do your research as to what “free” really means.

Awkward Test Visits

Clinics that offer free STD testing often are not using the most up-to-date testing methods available to medical professionals. It used to be that, for certain STD tests, namely bacterial infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis, that you had to offer a swab sample. These swab tests can often be quite painful, and sadly many clinics are still using them out of cost necessity or just habit. Modern testing methods have nearly eliminated the need for these painful swab tests. Do your own body a favor and find a location where you don’t have to worry about the unnecessary and potentially painful swab method.

Not All STDs May Be Covered

Free STD testing doesn’t always include testing for every STD it’s possible you could have contracted. The incentive to offer free STD testing for government health programs and nonprofits is to help reduce the number of infections from STDs that have potentially life threatening or serious health consequences. That’s why it’s much more common to find free STD testing clinics that only offer free HIV testing for example. As HIV is an infection that poses a great health risk to the general population, it’s considered to be cost effective to get more people tested by offering free STD testing. It’s far less common to see free STD testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomoniasis, or especially herpes.

Less Reliable Tests

Your health is important, and you should be accessing only the best tools in order to help you protect it. Some clinics that offer free STD testing are using cheaper and older generation STD tests in order to save on costs. However, as technologies improve, so do the accuracy rates of results. Using an older STD test means a higher risk of your results being inaccurate. While free STD testing may seem more cost effective at first, an inaccurate result could cost you more than the money you saved on the initial free STD testing. We encourage everyone to invest wisely when it comes to your sexual health.

As STD testing professionals, at Priority STD Testing, we understand why patients might seek out lower cost or free STD testing options. We encourage everyone who is sexually active to have all the information necessary to make the right choice for their sexual health and their STD testing needs available to them. Weighing the pros and cons of free STD testing options should be part of that consideration, and Priority STD Testing strives to be a trusted partner in your sexual health. 

A large peach emoji against a peach-colored background.

Can You Get STDs From Anal Sex?

A large peach emoji against a peach-colored background.

There is a lot of misinformation surrounding the question of whether or not you can get STDs from anal sex. On the one hand, there are many people who don’t consider anal sex to be a form of sexual intercourse, and in that instance, they might not link the practice with the risk of contracting or transmitting STDs or STIs like they do with vaginal sex. On the other hand, anal sex has been associated specifically with the transmission of HIV, so there are popular notions that relate to HIV being the only STD or STI you can get from anal sex.

However, both of these assumptions are myths. Anal sex is a sexual act like any other in that it’s possible to contract or transmit an STD or STI through the act.

HIV

While it’s possible to contract or transmit several STDs through anal sex, HIV is perhaps the most well known STD that can be transmitted through anal sex. This is primarily due to the infection’s association with gay men, though anyone can transmit or contract HIV by having anal sex, or other kinds of sex, with someone who is HIV positive.

Of the sexual acts in which HIV can be transmitted, anal sex is considered to be the highest risk, followed by vaginal sex and then oral sex. The risk associated with contracting HIV through anal sex differs depending on which partner is infected with HIV. Insertive partners (the partner inserting their penis) are at a lower risk of contracting HIV through anal sex than receptive partners (the partner receiving the penis). Being a receptive partner and having sex with an insertive partner who is HIV positive is up to 13 times more likely to result in the transmission of the virus when compared to sex involving an HIV positive receptive partner and HIV negative insertive partner. The reason the receptive partner’s risk is so much higher is that the lining of the rectum is thin and prone to microtears, which can allow fluids carrying the virus to easily enter the body. Regular HIV testing should be practiced for both parties when this type of contact occurs.

It’s important to note, however, that HIV transmission can still occur in either case. No matter which partner is infected, it’s possible for HIV transmission to occur whenever bodily fluids,  including blood, semen, pre-cum or rectal fluids, from someone who is infected come into contact with an uninfected partner. Though receptive partners are at a higher risk, an insertive partner could still contract the virus through the opening at the tip of the penis or through small cuts, scratches or open sores on the penis.

Other STDs

HIV isn’t the only STD that can be passed through anal sex. Chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, as well as hepatitis B and C, can be transmitted to the rectum if you have anal sex with someone who is infected.

Similarly to the case with HIV, anal sex can sometimes put you at a higher rate of contracting one of these STDs from an infected partner, for the same reasons that receptive partners are at higher risk of contracting HIV.

Any STD or STI that can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, such as herpes or HPV, can also be transmitted to the inside or outside of the anus and rectum, spreading as far as the buttocks in some cases. All it takes for transmission to occur is for the skin in these areas to come in contact with a sore.

Symptoms associated with STD transmission in this region include rectal burning, unusual discharge, bleeding, pain, or fissures. You might also develop symptoms elsewhere, such as blisters or achiness in the groin.

Reducing the risk of contracting STDs from anal sex

Like with other sexual acts, the use of condoms will help prevent the transmission of STDs from one partner to another.

If you’re specifically concerned about contracting HIV, antiviral medications referred to as PrEP and PEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis and post-exposure prophylaxis, respectively) can reduce both partner’s chances of HIV transmission. PrEP is for people who are HIV negative, and PEP is for people who are HIV positive. Regular daily use of these medications as prescribed can significantly reduce the risk of HIV transmission.